Cricket: Michael Bracewell grateful for years of toil en route to becoming Blackcaps' key man

Blackcaps all-rounder Michael Bracewell is making up for lost time, after being made to wait more than a decade for an international debut.

Just shy of a year into his international career, the 31-year-old has quickly established himself as a contender to be an all-format player, with his middle-order batting accompanied by more than handy off-spin with the ball.

Like many players in this current New Zealand side, Bracewell was forced to be patient to make the step up into international cricket, as an unintended consequence of arguably the Blackcaps' greatest side.

Michael Bracewell celebrates against India.
Michael Bracewell celebrates against India. Photo credit: Photosport

When he debuted in March 2022, Bracewell had more than 300 domestic games under his belt  with Otago and Wellington. While many others would wonder what could have been had a chance at international cricket come earlier, Bracewell isn't one of them.

In fact, being forced to toil for so long has only given the all-rounder complete clarity on how he wants to play the game.

"I've been very fortunate to have been in domestic cricket for a long time, and have different experiences throughout that time and be in different situations," he said. "The benefit that I've had is I've been able to learn my game at the domestic level, without the scrutiny of international cricket.

"By the time I've come around to international cricket, I know how I want to play the game.

"I've failed enough to know what's important to me as a player. I'm very fortunate for the path my career has taken and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Bracewell's rise also comes at the perfect time for the Blackcaps.

Michael Bracewell after taking a wicket against West Indies.
Michael Bracewell after taking a wicket against West Indies. Photo credit: Getty Images

Colin de Grandhomme's retirement and questions over Jimmy Neesham's long-term future have left a huge hole in the New Zealand team, with few players able to contribute runs with the bat from No.7 or lower, and provide wicket-taking options with the ball.

In white-ball cricket especially, Bracewell has shown he's more than up to the mark.

Last July, Bracewell hit a 72-ball century on his way to 127 not out to earn victory over Ireland in Dublin. Earlier this week, he showed that was no fluke, scoring 140 from just 78 balls in a losing effort for the Blackcaps against India away from home.

Those two scores, coupled with 14 wickets in 17 one-day internationals - at an economy rate of just 4.95 runs per over - make Bracewell a shoo-in for this year's 50-over Cricket World Cup, also in India.

But with no guarantees, Bracewell doesn't want to cast his eye too far forward, instead on helping the Blackcaps come back from 0-1 down in their three-match series against India, with game two on Saturday night (NZ time).

"I think it's something you don't really concentrate too much on," he added. "Hopefully, if I keep doing my role at No.7 and also contributing with the ball, those sorts of things take care of themselves.

"I'm just looking forward to the next game, taking it ball by ball and game by game."

That knock against India has solidified Bracewell's self-belief about his own ability with the bat.

He also warns not to expect a repeat of that innings - which contained 10 sixes - every time he arrives at the crease.

"Part of the reflection, for me, has been having that confidence you can do it against the best teams in the world is probably something I can take away from that innings.

"It's certainly not something I'm going to try and achieve every time I go out and bat, but knowing you're capable of an innings like that against one of the best teams in the world is something I'm looking to take forward with me."